Getting your money sites to the top pages of search results takes time. You’d create high-quality content and build relationships with backlinks.
However, there is a shortcut: black hat SEO.
Black hat SEO uses black hat links and poor-quality content to bypass Google’s algorithm. While the strategy might work immediately, it is not sustainable.
In fact, anything black hat should be frowned on. If you adopt such a strategy for your site, you risk losing all your rankings.
But how can you avoid black hat links when you don’t know them? Are there telltale signs to watch out for?
Also, how can you tell if an SEO strategy is a black hat? More importantly, how can you remove this pain in the ass if your site already has it?
This article can help!
Here, we will walk you through everything you need to know to avoid and fix black hat links, even as a beginner.
Before discussing the penalties of black hat links, we’ll explain what they are and how they work.
So are violations to Search Essential black hats?
Black hat techniques are the worst type of link spam. They are not necessarily illegal but are UNDOUBTEDLY 100% unnatural and attract hefty fines.
The dread around black hat links is mainly the penalties — from Google. But beyond that, the stigma will make other sites or businesses desist from working with you.
No one wants to be penalized for associating with a black hat.
So, what penalties are we talking about?
Your site would lose its ranking. Worst case: you will be TEMPORARILY removed (de-indexed) from search results altogether.
Will the de-indexing be forever?
Against the rumor going around online, your site won’t be de-indexed from Google forever for a few black hats.
Here is Google’s John Mueller’s input regarding a Reddit discussion (on the worst Google will do to a site that practices black hat SEO):
Despite the temporary ban and lengthy reintroduction process, several SEOs still practice black hat strategies. Why?
Generally, there are two reasons why people practice black hat techniques despite the stigma around it:
- Quick results
Ignorance can be in two ways:
- You don’t know how to build a link
- You can’t tell if a link is a black hat
For the first part, let’s say you outsource to a link building company. If the company can’t build quality links, the chances are that you’d end up with black hat links.
For the second part, the so-called “SEO company” might not even know the difference between “white hat” and “black hat.” Such a company would burn your site and business.
SEOs game the Search Guidelines with black hat links to fast-track ranking effects. And frankly, the method works since the links are produced in bulk and within a short period.
However, in the long run, site evaluators would discover the shady technique — even the most concealed types. When that happens, rankings will likely drop.
Below are the 3 top signs that indicate that an SEO strategy is likely a black hat:
Nothing is guaranteed in the SEO world. Regardless of the relationship between an SEO and a site’s owner, journalists, influencers, or authors, they can’t force any site to link to another one.
In natural link building, you can only show value and nudge your prospects to look at your content link to it. They might do so or otherwise.
So, once an SEO company guarantees you a spot on another website (which they don’t own), you’ll likely get a black hat link.
Since nothing is guaranteed, the timeframe to place a link in a high-traffic site won’t be fixed. That aside, the results won’t be quick.
Link building takes time. You will do link prospecting, qualification, outreach, and content creation.
Each of those can take at least 48 hours — outside outreach. You’ll be dealing with real humans, and they might never reply to your message until 2 weeks or even a month.
And depending on the submission site (especially the high DA and traffic ones), you’d have to wait up to 3 months to get a reply.
After outreach and content creation, there is still the editorial process.
Bottom line: natural backlinks take time to acquire. Otherwise, you are likely using a black hat technique.
It is possible that an SEO has built an unmatched relationship with journalists and site owners and can get guaranteed links within a fixed time. That’d be rare and hardly 100% – but it is possible.
For such SEOs, you’ll need to pay top bucks to offer their services.
If the price of a link building company is TOO low and they offer guaranteed placement and quick results, run. The company is DEFINITELY practicing black hat SEO.
How can you tell if the quote for a link placement is TOO cheap?
Consider the following:
- The promised site where your links would be placed
- The quality of sample articles written for the site
- The average cost of hiring link builders in that niche
Still confused about how to spot and avoid black hat link generators?
Check out the techniques below.
Hacking Websites For Links
This strategy is not only a black hat. It is 100% illegal.
You shouldn’t hack someone else’s site to place links on them. Neither should you encourage the approach if it was suggested by an SEO company.
How does this strategy even work?
Old posts on sites with security issues are often the target. Hackers know the site owners would likely revisit such pages or their content. So, they place as many links as possible on the page.
But while avoiding this technique, you should also prepare your site from hackers. Here is how:
- Change your username and password from the default. While you are at it, set up two-factor authentication.
- Set up firewalls to block unidentified, malicious threats
- Revisit old content and regularly update them. While you are at it, update your plugins and themes.
This is shitty! Perhaps the shittiest technique. Oddly enough, the strategy has nothing to do with the client site but with its competitors.
On Google Search Essentials, you can report sites that violate spam policies. And so?
SEOs will intentionally link to competitors’ sites from a website using black hat links. Afterward, they would report the competitor.
So, what will the SEO or client gain?
If your competitor is reported and found guilty, they will lose their rankings on search results. The other URLs below will shoot up.
Bottom line: while this method can be tempting because the act can hardly be traced back to its source, don’t encourage your SEO down this line. If a link building company does “this for you.” The chances are that they would do “it to you.”
While updating your themes and plugins, don’t download them from just any sites. In particular, avoid the cracked and modded versions. Here is why:
Hackers often build SEO plugins or themes for site owners. However, they place hidden links within the code of the utility.
Once you install the theme or plugin, you’d automatically link to the hacker’s site.
In the case of cracked themes, this technique is even more prominent. Hackers will edit a theme/plugin in demand. They will redistribute it for free while inserting a backlink in the code.
So how can you prevent hackers from using this technique on your site?
- Install and update your themes and plugins from appropriate channels such as WordPress and Themeisle.
Lastly, and most importantly, don’t employ any SEO who uses this method for your site.
After hackers, link farms are the next prominent black hat link building strategy. Though not illegal, link farms are equally to be avoided.
Funnily enough, link farms don’t even work. If they did, the effect would be minimal on your site’s rankings. How so?
Link farms are run like PBNs. However, they have already been discovered, unlike the latter.
Often, Google bots will disqualify the links placed in the farms before they can impact your site’s ranking.
So, you see, buying links from link farms won’t work. In fact, you’d only be wasting your time and fattening the pickets of the seller.
Worst case: you could face a potential penalty if you have several backlinks from link farms.
Further reading: Everything You Need To Know About Link Farms
Remember we mentioned that link farms are discovered PBNs. Discovered or not, PBNs backlinks won’t help your site’s SEO in the long run.
Here is why:
Nothing is as shady as building private websites to game search rankings. The worst case: the sites are often hidden.
Why hide the sites if the intentions were pure and natural?
You’d even hear SEOs selling PBN backlinks say things like:
“We’d only show you a screenshot of the anchor text. We won’t share the URL.”
Such comments are already an indication you should avoid such backlinks. Plus, the content on PBNs is hardly high-quality.
Since the PBNs links would be sold cheaply, sellers won’t hire quality writers.
Further reading: Everything You Need To Know About PBN Backlinks
The following techniques are less severe. Nevertheless, they are still black hat strategies to avoid.
This black hat technique works similarly to how hackers use themes and plugins. The only difference is that this approach is less techy.
Here is how:
Hidden content is not EXACTLY hidden in some background code. No!
Instead, SEOs will change the color of some blocks of text to match the background of a page. That way, the texts would be overstuffed with keywords.
Since readers can’t see the texts, SEOs won’t care about the quality of the words.
Funnily enough, this method only tricks readers. Google crawlers and bots can see hidden texts because they read the codes.
And within the code, it will be revealed that some texts are keyword-stuffed.
Bottom line: don’t use this technique. It is silly and doesn’t even work.
All pages have footer links for extra details like contact and site map. Often, SEOs try to exploit the opportunity for backlinks. The hack ends up being a black hat. Why?
By design, footers can’t house commercial anchor texts. You could place one or two there.
However, when you bombard the space with commercial anchor texts, Google bots will flag the site.
Here are other notable black hat strategies:
- Keyword stuffing
- Overusing a particular anchor text
Now, you know examples of black hat link building techniques. Let’s discuss how to remove the links if they are pointing to your site.
There are two ways to remove black hat links:
- Contact the host site
- Create a disavow file and upload it to Google Search Console.
The first method works but can take time since you would be working with humans. They might disregard your message or never read it on time.
In other words, use the “disavow file” method.
So, how does the “disavow” method work?
- Create a list of the unwanted backlinks. Copy their URLs into a text file.
Pro Tip: Ensure each domain, subdomain, or subpath stays on its own line. The maximum is 100,000 lines.
- Use hashtags to indicate comments — if needed
- Now, upload the text file to Google’s disavow link tool.
Working With SAFE Links
The complete opposite of “black hat links” are “white hat links.” The latter strictly adheres to Google Search Essentials and is 100% safe.
Examples of the techniques here include:
- Guest posts
- Niche edits
- Skyscraper content creation
- Pillow link building
- Forum link building
However, note that safe links can also become black hats. Here is how:
Your site will be flagged if you violate Google spam policies, regardless of the technique used.
For example, if your guest posts don’t provide value and are keyword-stuffed, such will count as a black hat.
Overall, watch the intent of your link building process. Are you gaming Search Essentials or offering value while promoting your business?
If you fall into the former, change your approach. You’re on the black hat side.